Surfing America – the recognized national governing body for the sport in the US – announced Wednesday, March 12, at a press conference that the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) is no longer a member of its organization, making athletes who only compete in NSSA events ineligible for the USA Championships in 2009 and the USA Surf Team effective for the 2008-09 season after this August.
Because NSSA pulled out of membership responsibilities half way through the 2007-08 season, it’s athletes will still be allowed to compete in the USA Championship event this year, on an invitational basis only, according to Mike Gerard, Surfing America executive director, and Scott Daley, the organization’s president, who both spoke at the Surfing Heritage Foundation conference.
“Yes, the NSSA left, but this is not a bashing session,” Gerard said. “We want to discuss how to further expand the program and have more success. We’re in the process of raising the bar.”
New membership criteria adopted at an October 2007 Surfing America meeting includes paying organization fees of $750 plus $39 individual member fees, using a full panel of certified judges at all championship events held in 2009 and beyond, and including the Surfing America logo on their Web sites as well as Surfing America boilerplate information on all printed materials, according to the official document provided at the conference.
Janice Aragon, NSSA’s executive director, said NSSA’s board disagreed with several of the new provisions, especially the requirement that individual members of organizations must pay additional fees and must become a part of Surfing America.
“The NSSA believed that its members should have had the choice to join Surfing America, but not be required [to do so] in order to become a member of NSSA,” Aragon said in an email, as she traveled with the NSSA team to Florida for the East Coast Championships. “The board deemed that this should be the choice of each individual separately. In addition, a large majority of the NSSA membership does not participate in the surfing America program and the board felt it wasn’t fair to mandate any additional costs to the membership without it being their choice.”
The NSSA will continue to uphold its standards within the surfing community, providing structured surfing events for student surfers of all ages, Aragon said, stating that the mandated age categories within Surfing America’s new provisions were also a source of contention with the NSSA.
According to several members of the press, many parents and young surfers are concerned that, due to NSSA’s withdrawal, they may lose the chance to compete in the USA Championships in the future. USA Surf Team coach Joey Buran, also on hand at the conference, assured media that the best athletes were already on the team and that Surfing America would continue to seek out new talent and encourage participation in the programs.
Surfing America also announced the creation of a new invitation-only “prime events” series for 2009, which will act as a pilot program on the West Coast under the Western Surfing Association – contests that will focus on four-man instead of six-man heats and use computer scoring and certified judges only.
The changes will be made in an effort to prepare the organization for recognition by the US Olympic Committee and ultimately gain admittance into the International Olympic Committee-governed Pan Am Games – a goal that Surfing America feels it could accomplish within two years, according to Gerard. The organization’s athletes are gearing up to participate in the Pan American Junior Surfing Championships this November in Venezuela.
“We are in negotiations with the US Olympic Committee and we are actually working with the author of the Ted Stevens Olympic Act to meet qualifications,” Gerard said. “We want to make it more organized and we’re trying to be inclusive and make it work all together.”